Tuesday, August 30, 2016


wisdom |ˈwizdəm

noun  the quality of having experience, knowledgeand good judgment

For the Lord gives wisdom
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  
Proverbs 2:6

Experience, knowledge and good judgment.  Three ingredients that make up wisdom. But what if you have two out of three? Can you still be wise?  Well, let's see:
  • I know that I can get carried away when I drink and I also know there's going to be alcohol at the party, but everybody is going to be there and if I stick to just one drink...experience + knowledge - good judgment = bad decision
  • I've read every book ever written on babies and parenting, and he's dry, has a full tummy and it's not nap time, so why are we having a meltdown in the middle of the grocery store?  knowledge + good judgment - experience = frustration
  • I am a good driver, I keep my car in good condition - so when I decided to take this road trip, I was prepared.  I mapped out the route, gave myself enough time but didn't realize when I passed that last exit that it would be 40 miles until the next exit and now I'm running on empty...good judgment + experience - knowledge = trouble.
The truth is, we really need all three elements to be truly wise.  Experience is priceless.  This is why our children need us as they learn to parent their own kids. I can remember the moment when I realized as a parent that my parents were figuring things out just like me when I was a child.  We think our parents knew everything, but until they had experience under their belt, they were just winging it.

Knowledge is just as important.  God has given us a brain and He expects us to use it.  We have to stretch ourselves - educate ourselves.  Read up on things, make plans, talk to others who have gone before us.  The more information we have, the better decisions we can make.

And then there's good judgment.  All the experience and knowledge in the world means nothing if you don't have good judgment.  This is basically what the psalmist calls "understanding."  When you know what is the right thing to do, does it makes sense to you in a way that causes you to act on your understanding?  Or do you have poor judgment? Do you think the laws of gravity and morality and thermodynamics don't apply to you?  

I love this verse.  In it we see all three ingredient of wisdom.  From the Lord's mouth come knowledge and understanding.  In other words, the Word of the Lord gives knowledge and good judgment.  If you want truth, if you want to make wise decisions, then know the Word.
  • How should I spend my money?
  • Who should I marry?
  • How do I serve a wicked boss?
  • What do I do with office gossip?
  • How should I discipline my children?
  • Does it matter if I tithe?
  • Why do I have to submit to my husband?
  • Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer?
These are just a sampling of questions that God's Word covers.  If we know the truth, then we also receive good judgment when we choose to be obedient.  When we put the outcome in the hands of the Lord by walking in obedience, this is called good judgment. When we choose to submit, or tithe, or wait for a believing spouse, or not to be intimate outside of marriage, or to spank our children, or not to indulge in gossip - when we act on the truth given to us, we have good judgment.

Okay, so what about the third ingredient?  See the first part of the verse:  The Lord gives wisdom.  In this we see why the Lord gives us experience.  He knows that all three ingredients are necessary, so He provides the circumstances to grow our experience, that when added to our knowledge of His word and our understanding that obedience is the safest place for us to be, then we become wise.  What the Lord gives us is the storms of life, the trials and struggles, the joys and then the years that make up our experience.  

My father and my husband's father died when we were in our early thirties.  There is a wisdom that comes from living your adult years without a father.  We walked through illness with our fathers, which has enabled us to speak with wisdom to others who are facing walking through illness with a loved one.  We could read up on cancer all we want and we can talk with others, but until we walked through it, we didn't fully understand it.  Now we can speak with wisdom (experience, knowledge and good judgment) because of what we went through.

When I was younger, I would have hated this post.  I wanted wisdom without the experience.  To my younger reading audience, my advice to you is study the Word as much as you can.  Know it inside and out. Then when the Lord brings life to your door, you can act on what you know.  This will result in wisdom that is way beyond your years.

For those of us who have plenty of experience but not much wisdom, the advice is the same.  Get in the Word.  Learn about your God.  He never changes so what you see in the Word is what you get.  He is wonderful, deep, extravagant and ever present.  The more you know the Word, the easier it will be for you to act upon it, making your experience the practical testimony of either what to do or what not to do based on the Word of God.

Knowing this, now we can thank the Lord for whatever experience He brings into our lives, knowing that He is developing wisdom in our character.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Horn of Salvation

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; 
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

Rock.  Fortress. Deliverer. Refuge. Shield. Stronghold.

The implication of strength and safety in these words are clear. Life is a battle and our source of rest, protection and strength is in the Lord.

But what in the world does it mean that the Lord is the horn of my salvation?  Is this a cultural thing that the psalmist is referring to?  I did some research and found that horns were used in battle, as well, and that it could be a symbol of strength just like the other words. Most commentators, however, point to the emphasis of "salvation" in this descriptor and believe it is talking of the horns on the brazen altar, meaning that the Lord provided salvation through His sacrifice.

While this is true, I believe the meaning is actually deeper. If you understand the construction of the altar in the Temple, on the four corners there were horns. These horns had a specific purpose.  They secured the sacrifices. Live animals were brought to the altar and then their heads were bound to one of the horns to hold the animal in place for the slaughter. It's neck would be cut open and the blood would be caught in a bowl. Sometimes this blood was painted on the horns, other times it was sprinkled in various places (i.e.. on the mercy seat, over the people) and other times it was discarded. Vast gutter systems ran from the Temple, out a back wall and down a hill behind the Temple wall that directed the blood out of the city.  It has been said that at times of festivals, the blood flowed from the Temple into the Kidron Valley, which is the valley in between the Temple and the Mount of Olives. The horns, then, held the animal in place so that the sacrifice could be made.

Years ago there was a gal who I was witnessing to for a few years.She was my hair stylist and whenever I was with her, I tried to talk about what I was teaching in Bible study or what I was studying. One day I came into the salon and she was anxious to see me. She said she and her husband had gone to see "The Passion of Christ," which was in theaters at the time. They had so many questions after seeing that movie, but the main one was this - If Jesus was God, then when He was nailed to the cross and the people were mocking Him to come down, why didn't He come down?

I loved that question! And here's the answer: Because Jesus is the horn of my salvation. Now, of course, I didn't say it like that, but that is the truth. Jesus Himself SECURED the sacrifice. The nails didn't hold Jesus on that cross - Jesus held Jesus on that cross.

In John 10:17,18 Jesus says, "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative.  I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.  This commandment I received from My Father."  Jesus willingly laid down His live - He not only willingly went to the cross, but He held Himself there to finish what He had started.  If you look at Jesus' actions leading to the cross, we see that this is true:

  • He met the guards in the garden, rather than running and hiding (John 18:1-4)
  • He didn't defend Himself in the trials (I Peter 2:21-24)
  • He prayed for those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34)
  • He lovingly put the needs of others before Himself in His final words (John 19;26,27)
The picture given to us in the descriptor "horn of my salvation" is the picture of what secures our salvation - what held our sacrifice in place.  It is a clear picture of Jesus.  He alone secured our salvation, He alone bore our penalty on the cross, He alone remained in place so that the sacrifice would be made.  

So here's an idea.  When you pray tonight and thank the Father for His love, care and provision for you, why not thank Jesus for being the horn of your salvation?  You understand what it means and it's a worthy description of our Savior, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


shield SHēld

noun   a broad piece of metal or another suitable material, 

held by straps or a handle attached on one side, 

used as a protection against blows or missiles

Proverbs 30:5 says, "Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."  Building on our refuge post, this proverb tells us that if we choose to find refuge in the Lord, then He is a shield to us.  Let's first think about shields.

I didn't grab a shield as I headed to the grocery store today.  Neither did I grab a shield when I went to dinner the other night.  In fact, I don't think I own a shield, let alone can think of a time when I needed one.  This is because a shield is a tool of war.  It is battle garb.  It is for protection and I live a pretty safe life in Western Michigan.  So perhaps the shield that God is for me is spiritual rather than physical.

When Abraham battled against the five kings of the north to retrieve Lot and the citizens of Sodom, overnight he made some pretty big enemies.  This frightened him and the Lord calmed him down by promising him, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great." (Genesis 15:1)  You have nothing to worry about, Abram - I have made promises to you that I will keep.  Remember when I told you that you'd father a great nation? Yeah, we haven't even started on that, so I don't think these five kings are going to hassle you.  I will be your protection.  I will keep you safe.  If you find refuge in Me, you can count on me keeping you safe.

Abraham knew the promises of God and it was in those promises that Abraham needed to find his security.  The same goes for us today. You can search on the word "shield" and find many great promises in the Word, but the reason I love this particular proverb is because of the first phrase - "Every word of God is tested..."  This word tested means proven or pure.  If something is pure, it is undefiled - it's strength comes in the fact that it's not contaminated. If a bridge is proven, it is tested and found strong enough to support the loads that will cross it.  In essence, it is not contaminated, it is not compromised, it is pure and sure.

Every word of God is tested - every word is pure, is proven.  If we are to find our refuge in the Lord, if He is to be our shield, then the strength of His Word is what will uphold us. The protection of the Lord is the truth of His Word.  If God were a deceiver, then His Word would not be trustworthy, but because He is good and cannot lie, because He is immutable and never changes, because He loves me and is sovereign over all, then I can have confidence in what He says.

Within the daily spiritual battlefields:
  • I can be confident that my sins have been forgiven because of what Jesus did, not because of what I need to do (Ephesians 2:8,9)
  • I can choose the safety of submission in a world that thinks I'm crazy (Ephesians 5:22)
  • I can lovingly discipline my children, knowing that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child (Proverbs 22:15) and that if I love my child, I will discipline them (Proverbs 13:24)
  • I can sleep at night, knowing that nothing can come between me and my Savior (Romans 8:38,39)
  • I can confidently stand in trials, knowing that God is at work in the midst of them (James 1:2-4, Romans 8:28)
  • I can do the hard work of forgiveness because Christ is living within me (Galatians 2:20)
  • I already know that what I do and say, and how I act are foolishness to the world and I'm okay with it because obedience has become a power source in my life (I Corinthians 1:18)
Knowing the Word of God is what protects me.  When I make choices because of the boundaries God has placed around me, I am in the safest place possible.  When I step outside of those boundaries, I am asking for trouble. So the key to God's protection is knowing His Word and standing firm upon it.

Do not take refuge in God in ignorance.  Take refuge in confidence that God's truth, which is tried and proven trustworthy, is a protection and a shield for you on a daily basis.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016


refuge |ˈrefˌyo͞ojˈrefˌyo͞oZH
nouna condition of being safe or sheltered from pursuit, danger, or trouble
Where do you find shelter?  We all do it.  We get ourselves in a bind or find ourselves in a crisis, and we seek shelter from the storm.  Whether we see the storm clouds rolling in or are caught in a downpour, it is our nature to find safety, to keep dry, to limit the damage. Refuge comes in many shapes and sizes.  Sometimes it looks like a husband. Big, strong, confident - he will be the answer to all my problems.  Other times it looks like a doctor.  Educated, experienced, compassionate - he'll make everything better.  Another refuge comes in a bottle - a medicine bottle, a liquor bottle.  Something to numb the pain, to soften the harshness of this world.  Still others find refuge in relationships - parents, friends, employers, pastors, teachers, judges. People who can make things right.  People who will be fair and trustworthy.  People who are supposed to be safe.So what happens when a refuge fails?  What happens when the roof caves in or the storm is too great for the refuge to bear?  Then what do you do?You do what most of the world does - turn your eyes towards heaven.  It is common for people of all beliefs to cry out to God when all else fails.  Because we have eternity in our hearts - we know there is something out there much bigger than ourselves - during times of trial or struggle, we hope against all hopes that the Something is actually paying attention and willing to step in, willing to heal, willing to be justice when justice is far, willing to stop the pain.  Here's the truth - humanity was not made to bear the weight of being a refuge.  As a mother, I would like to think that my children can find shelter and safety in my care, but I can't solve all their problems.  I can't make the world treat them fairly and I can't build walls around them that are high enough to spare them the struggles of life.  I am not their savior.  Spouses aren't perfect, friends come and go, employers can be unjust, pastors can fall into sin, teachers can have bad days and judges can be corrupt. The only true refuge, the only true place of safety is in that heavenly "Something" - within the capable, eternal, unchanging arms of God.The psalmist understood this in Psalm 73:25-28, when he penned, "Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.  For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You.  But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works." The nearness of God is my good.  What a great line!  If you're not sure what he means, let's put it in the negative - when God is far away, that's really bad.  Those who are far from from God and are unfaithful will perish and be destroyed.  Another powerful truth. The psalmist is looking beyond the here and now and setting his heart on eternity.  The God of the universe, the almighty, all present, all powerful and sovereign God who has everything under control is my portion - He is mine.  He's all I need and I recognize His presence and strength in all of life.  Even if my flesh (physically) and my heart (my mind) fails, it doesn't change the truth about God.  This is how the psalmist chooses to live his life.The psalm ends with a choice - I have made the Lord God my refuge.  Which leads me to my opening question - where do you find shelter?  You have a choice.  You can numb yourself with substances or put the weight of protection on the shoulders of those you love but who are not able to bear that weight in their humanity.  You can watch your strength and heart fail, as well as your earthly refuges.  Or you can find your strength, your purpose, your protection and your unconditional refuge in God, whose shoulders are broad enough, whose strength is unending and whose nearness is good.  No matter what you are going through today, as redeemed children of God, we know that our God is good, that He loves us and that our eternity is secure.  We know that He is working all things together for our good, conforming us into the image of His Son. We know that He says the struggles of this world are but a vapor and that in eternity the suffering is over.  We are confident that He is near, even when we don't see Him or feel Him - we CHOOSE to stand firm with confidence that God is in the midst of our suffering and that He indeed is our refuge and salvation.  We do not simply cry out to the heavens for help, but we intimately know who we have in the heavens and He knows us by name.